Nicholls Athletic Director Matt Roan was recently appointed to be the Southland Conference’s representative on the NCAA Division I Football Championship Committee as one of 10 voices that will select the field for the upcoming FCS Playoffs.
But contrary to what some fans may believe, Roan’s appointment does not mean the Colonels have an inside advantage on getting to the postseason as opposed to other programs.
While Nicholls is in the thick of the hunt for one of the bracket’s 14 at-large bids, it will not be able to count on Roan’s help in the selection process. Assuming the Colonels do not win the Southland Conference title again this year, which would render the selection process irrelevant due to the league’s automatic bid, Roan would have to leave the room when the committee discussed Nicholls and where and if it would be placed in the field of 24 teams.
As the national representative for the Southland, Roan would be allowed to present the case for Nicholls based purely on factual data as he would for any other team, but cannot actively advocate for the Colonels. The key would be that, once he joins the committee, he is no longer acting as the Nicholls athletic director, but looking for the best possible teams.
“On our West (Regional) calls, I can talk about Nicholls and rank them where I think they should be ranked,” Roan said. “I can certainly talk about Nicholls in that call, but I never advocate for us. It’s just very matter of fact where I think they fall. When it comes to selecting the playoff field it is my understanding that I will remove myself from the room when Nicholls is talked about.”
The committee is responsible for the playoff selections, seedings and structure of the FCS Playoffs.
Selection weekend takes place after the final playing date of the regular season on Nov. 23. After conference calls throughout the season, the selection committee will meet in Indianapolis to complete the selections for release on Sunday, Nov. 24. Round 1 of this season's FCS Playoffs begins on Nov. 30.
Roan was appointed to the position earlier this week after previously serving as the West Regional representative, a position that acts as a sort of advisor to the national committee person.
Each conference puts two people on the regional conference call each Monday that ranks the top teams from each region. With Roan now the national representative, Stephen F. Austin Athletic Director Ryan Ivey was appointed by SLC Commissioner Tom Burnett to be the West Region representative for the Southland.
Together with representatives from the Big Sky Conference, they all rank the Top 10 teams each week from both conferences and the University of North Dakota, which they then submit to the rest of the national committee for consideration. North Dakota is still part of the West Region as it transitions to the Missouri Valley Conference.
While the NCAA sends out condensed versions of each game, the idea is that the region and conference representatives can more closely watch a smaller number of teams and provide informed recommendations to the others.
On Wednesdays, the national committee releases its Top 10.
“Just a really transparent process,” Roan said. “We have 10 ADs across the country watching a lot of football. There’s a lot of information shared with us so we try to be as informed as we can be. We have a lot of conversations and it all comes together.”
The only way Roan will not have to recuse himself from the final selection process is if Nicholls has its placed locked in with the Southland’s automatic qualifier as the league champion, making his presence irrelevant.
Nicholls (4-2 in the SLC) still has a chance to repeat as SLC champs, sitting only a game back on leader Central Arkansas (5-1 in the SLC). The Colonels have the added advantage of winning their head-to-head matchup with the Bears, UCA’s only conference loss of the season. Nicholls would also benefit from a potential win over Southeastern Louisiana (4-2 in the SLC) in the season finale.
The problem is that Sam Houston (4-2 in the SLC) also has a head-to-head win over Nicholls, but a loss to Central Arkansas. If all three teams finish with two losses, the league would be sent into a series of tiebreakers.
According to league rules, if a three-way tie happened in this manner, “the Conference shall utilize the final computerized ranking of the NCAA Simple Ratings System (SRS) to designate the Conference’s highest-rated team and automatic bid recipient.”
If Nicholls can’t lock down an automatic bid, it’ll be at the hands of the committee to determine if it deserves an at-large bid.
The good news is that Nicholls has a strong strength of schedule. Hero Sports ranks them as the No. 22 toughest calendar in the FCS and fourth in the Southland. Nicholls is 5-2 against FCS opponents and those FCS opponents have a combined 22-20 record against other FCS opponents.
By comparison, Nicholls finished 2017 — the only other year it received an at-large bid — with an 8-2 record against FCS opponents, including two SLC losses.
In terms of national rankings, Nicholls comes into today’s game against Houston Baptist unranked in the coaches’ poll but ranked No. 25 in the STATS FCS poll. In 2017, the Colonels finished the final week of the regular season unranked in the STATS FCS poll and No. 22 in the coaches.
“The whole body of work,” Roan said about what the committee looks for in a team, not speaking about any team in particular. “I think the College Football Playoff Committee will tell you the same thing. They look at the entire body of work. Our rankings are this in this point in time, considering the first 10 weeks of the season.
“Ultimately when you get into that room, there’s 10 (automatic qualifiers) and we have the responsibility to pick 14 at-large teams. We’re looking for the 14 best teams in the country.”